On this day in 1994, four Islamic extremists hijack Air France Flight 8969 in Algiers. The terrorists then flew the plane to Marseilles with the permission of the French and Algerian governments, given in part because French special forces would be ready to perform a rescue mission. More than two days after the terrorists took control of the plane, during which time they killed three hostages, French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur decided to use French commandos to put an end to the hijacking. In the ensuing mission, the terrorists were killed and the remaining hostages were released unharmed, despite the discovery of a cache of dynamite aboard the plane. Hostages claimed that the terrorists had discussed plans to fly the plane to Paris and blow it up.
The hijacking came during a period of political upheaval in Algeria that pitted Islamic rebels against the country's military dictatorship. France, along with other Western countries, supported the dictatorship to prevent the takeover of the country by Islamic fundamentalist. The hijacking was designed as a protest against this support. The brutal Algerian civil war, which began in 1992, when the Algerian army cancelled an election that the Islamic party was winning, continues to this day. Although the violence died down to a certain extent in 1999 when Abdelaziz Bouteflika--who promised reform and end to the war--was elected president, fighting still breaks out periodically. Despite the resistance of Islamic fundamentalist groups, the army has maintained power. Over 100,000 people have died in the fighting, most of them citizens who were brutally murdered by the regime.